The Use of Pulsed Radiofrequency to Treat Frozen Shoulder

The Use of Pulsed Radiofrequency to Treat Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder is a condition that can affect anyone at any time, although it is far more prevalent in the age group 40-60 and it is also much more common in females than in males.

Traditional treatments for a frozen shoulder tend to focus on physiotherapy combined with the patient undertaking exercises at home, to effectively cause the shoulder joint to become flexible again and reducing the pain and inflammation of the joint.

However, there are some instances where the pain is refractory in the sense that it does not respond to physiotherapy. In these instances, the method used to control the pain and ease the inflammation tended to focus on steroid injections, which also contained local anaesthetic. But now there is another very effective weapon that can be used in the fight against frozen shoulder and that is pulsed radiofrequency, which is applied in the region of the suprascapular nerve.

The Suprascapular Nerve

The suprascapular nerve is the nerve that is most commonly affected in the condition of a frozen shoulder and it is for this reason that the suprascapular nerve is directly targeted by pulsed radiofrequency treatment.

Pulsed Radiofrequency Treatment

Pulsed radiofrequency treatment is a way of re-conditioning the nerves so that they revert back to being in their ‘pre-pain’ state and they think that no pain is being experienced, so the patient feels no pain. Unlike other radiofrequency treatments there is no long term damage to the nerves, so it is a procedure that is favoured by both patients and pain specialists. This lack of damage stems from the fact that the nerves are not heated in the same way as with other radiofrequency treatments.

The procedure involves an electrode applied through the skin directly targeting a nerve or nerves and heating them up only to around 42 º C which causes no permanent damage.

A Straightforward Procedure

Another benefit of this procedure is that it is very short, generally less than 10 minutes and it can be done without a patient having to be admitted to hospital, they need only attend as an out patient.

The treatment is only minimally invasive, so there are few risks associated with it and patients usually only have to spend an hour recovering before they can go home again.

Prior to the procedure there will be a physical examination and some routine tests carried out just to ensure that the procedure can be carried out.

Using pulsed radiofrequency also means that the patient can return to work the next day and the success rate for the procedure is a very impressive 70-80%, which is high, especially when dealing with refractory pain.

One final benefit to the use of pulsed radiofrequency is that it is a procedure that has very few side effects, unlike using medication, so it can really be used in the majority of cases where the pain is simply not responsive to physiotherapy and the use of exercises to mobilise the joint again.